Abstract

 

Parkinson's disease (PD), characterized by dopaminergic neuron degeneration in the substantia nigra, is caused by various genetic and environmental factors. Current treatment methods are medication and surgery; however, a primary therapy has not yet been proposed. In this study, we aimed to develop a new treatment for PD that induces direct reprogramming of dopaminergic neurons (iDAN). Achaete-scute family bHLH transcription factor 1 (ASCL1) is a primary factor that initiates and regulates central nervous system development and induces neurogenesis. In addition, it interacts with BRN2 and MYT1L, which are crucial transcription factors for the direct conversion of fibroblasts into neurons. Overexpression of ASCL1 along with the transcription factors NURR1 and LMX1A can directly reprogram iDANs. Using a retrovirus, GFP-tagged ASCL1 was overexpressed in astrocytes. One week of culture in iDAN conversion medium reprogrammed the astrocytes into iDANs. After 7 days of differentiation, TH+/TUJ1+ cells emerged. After 2 weeks, the number of mature TH+/TUJ1+ dopaminergic neurons increased. Only ventral midbrain (VM) astrocytes exhibited these results, not cortical astrocytes. Thus, VM astrocytes can undergo direct iDAN reprogramming with ASCL1 alone, in the absence of transcription factors that stimulate dopaminergic neuron development.